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Cast Adrift, a fiction by T. S. Arthur


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_ CHAPTER XXIV. Edith's sickness--Meeting of Mrs. Bray and Pinky
Swett--A trial of sharpness, in which neither gains the
advantage--Mr. Dinneford receives a call from a lady--The lady, who
is Mrs. Bray, offers information--Mr. Dinneford surprises her into
admitting an important fact--Mrs. Bray offers to produce the child
for a price--Mr. Dinneford consents to pay the price on certain
stipulations--Mrs. Bray departs, promising to come again

_NO_ other result than the one that followed could have been hoped
for. The strain upon Edith was too great. After the funeral of her
mother mind and body gave way, and she passed several weeks in a
half-unconscious state.

Two women, leading actors in this tragedy of life, met for the first
time in over two years--Mrs. Hoyt, _alias_ Bray, and Pinky Swett. It
had not gone very well with either of them during that period.
Pinky, as the reader knows, had spent the time in prison, and Mrs.
Bray, who had also gone a step too far in her evil ways, was now
hiding from the police under a different name from any heretofore
assumed. They met, by what seemed an accident, on the street.



Dropped from their lips in mutual surprise and pleasure. A little
while they held each other's hands, and looked into each other's
faces with keenly-searching, sinister eyes, one thought coming
uppermost in the minds of both--the thought of that long-time-lost
capital in trade, the cast-adrift baby.

From the street they went to Mrs. Bray's hiding-place a small
ill-furnished room in one of the suburbs of the city--and there took
counsel together.

"What became of that baby?" was one of Mrs. Bray's first questions.

"It's all right," answered Pinky.

"Do you know where it is?"


"And can you put your hand on it?"

"At any moment."

"Not worth the trouble of looking after now," said Mrs. Bray,
assuming an indifferent manner.

"Why?" Pinky turned on her quickly.

"Oh, because the old lady is dead."

"What old lady?"

"The grandmother."

"When did she die?"

"Three or four weeks ago."

"What was her name?" asked Pinky.

Mrs. Bray closed her lips tightly and shook her head.

"Can't betray thatt secret," she replied.

"Oh, just as you like;" and Pinky gave her head an impatient toss.
"High sense of honor! Respect for the memory of a departed friend!
But it won't go down with me, Fan. We know each other too well. As
for the baby--a pretty big one now, by the way, and as handsome a
boy as you'll find in all this city--he's worth something to
somebody, and I'm on that somebody's track. There's mother as well
as a grandmother in the case, Fan."

Mrs. Bray's eyes flashed, and her face grew red with an excitement
she could not hold back. Pinky watched her keenly.

"There's somebody in this town to-day who would give thousands to
get him," she added, still keeping her eyes on her companion. "And
as I was saying, I'm on that somebody's track. You thought no one
but you and Sal Long knew anything, and that when she died you had
the secret all to yourself. But Sal didn't keep mum about it."

"Did she tell you anything?" demanded Mrs. Bray, thrown off her
guard by Pinky's last assertion.

"Enough for me to put this and that together and make it nearly all
out," answered Pinky, with great coolness. "I was close after the
game when I got caught myself. But I'm on the track once more, and
don't mean to be thrown off. A link or two in the chain of evidence
touching the parentage of this child, and I am all right. You have
these missing links, and can furnish them if you will. If not, I am
bound to find them. You know me, Fan. If I once set my heart on
doing a thing, heaven and earth can't stop me."

"You're devil enough for anything, I know, and can lie as fast as
you can talk," returned Mrs. Bray, in considerable irritation. "If I
could believe a word you said! But I can't."

"No necessity for it," retorted Pinky, with a careless toss of her
head. "If you don't wish to hunt in company, all right. I'll take
the game myself."

"You forget," said Mrs. Bray, "I can spoil your game."

"Indeed! how?"

"By blowing the whole thing to Mr.--"

"Mr. who?" asked Pinky, leaning forward eagerly as her companion
paused without uttering the name that was on her lips.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Mrs. Bray gave a low tantalizing laugh.

"I'm not sure that I would, from you. I'm bound to know somehow, and
it will be cheapest to find out for myself," replied Pinky, hiding
her real desire, which was to get the clue she sought from Mrs.
Bray, and which she alone could give. "As for blowing on me, I
wouldn't like anything better. I wish you'd call on Mr. Somebody at
once, and tell him I've got the heir of his house and fortune, or on
Mrs. Somebody, and tell her I've got her lost baby. Do it, Fan;
that's a deary."

"Suppose I were to do so?" asked Mrs. Bray, repressing the anger
that was in her heart, and speaking with some degree of calmness.

"What then?"

"The police would be down on you in less than an hour."

"And what then?"

"Your game would be up."

Pinky laughed derisively:

"The police are down on me now, and have been coming down on me for
nearly a month past. But I'm too much for them. I know how to cover
my tracks."

"Down on you! For what?"

"They're after the boy."

"What do they know about him? Who set them after him?"

"I grabbed him up last Christmas down in Briar street after being on
his track for a week, and them that had him are after him sharp."

"Who had him?"

"I'm a little puzzled at the rumpus it has kicked up," said Pinky,
in reply. "It's stirred things amazingly."


"Oh, as I said, the police are after me sharp. They've had me before
the mayor twice, and got two or three to swear they saw me pick up
the child in Briar street and run off with him. But I denied it

"And I can swear that you confessed it all to me," said Mrs. Bray,
with ill-concealed triumph.

"It won't do, Fan," laughed Pinky. "They'll not be able to find him
any more then than now. But I wish you would. I'd like to know this
Mr. Somebody of whom you spoke. I'll sell out to him. He'll bid
high, I'm thinking."

Baffled by her sharper accomplice, and afraid to trust her with the
secret of the child's parentage lest she should rob her of the last
gain possible to receive out of this great iniquity, Mrs. Bray
became wrought up to a state of ungovernable passion, and in a blind
rage pushed Pinky from her room. The assault was sudden and
unexpected---so sudden that Pinky, who was the stronger, had no time
to recover herself and take the offensive before she was on the
outside and the door shut and locked against her. A few impotent
threats and curses were interchanged between the two infuriated
women, and then Pinky went away.

On the day following, as Mr. Dinneford was preparing to go out, he
was informed that a lady had called and was waiting down stairs to
see him. She did not send her card nor give her name. On going into
the room where the visitor had been shown, he saw a little woman
with a dark, sallow complexion. She arose and came forward a step or
two in evident embarrassment.

"Mr. Dinneford?" she said.

"That is my name, madam," was replied.

"You do not know me?"

Mr. Dinneford looked at her closely, and then answered,

"I have not that pleasure, madam."

The woman stood for a moment or two, hesitating.

"Be seated, madam," said Mr. Dinneford.

She sat down, seeming very ill at ease. He took a chair in front of

"You wish to see me?"

"Yes, sir, and on a matter that deeply concerns you. I was your
daughter's nurse when her baby was born."

She paused at this. Mr. Dinneford had caught his breath. She saw the
almost wild interest that flushed his face.

After waiting a moment for some response, she added, in a low,
steady voice,

"That baby is still alive, and I am the only person who can clearly
identify him."

Mr. Dinneford did not reply immediately. He saw by the woman's face
that she was not to be trusted, and that in coming to him she had
only sinister ends in view. Her story might be true or false. He
thought hurriedly, and tried to regain exterior calmness. As soon as
he felt that he could speak without betraying too much eagerness, he
said, with an appearance of having recognized her,

"You are Mrs.----?"

He paused, but she did not supply the name.

"Mrs.----? Mrs.----? what is it?"

"No matter, Mr. Dinneford," answered Mrs. Bray, with the coolness
and self-possession she had now regained. "What I have just told you
is true. If you wish to follow up the matter--wish to get possession
of your daughter's child--you have the opportunity; if not, our
interview ends, of course;" and she made a feint, as if going to

"Is it the child a woman named Pinky Swett stole away from Briar
street on Christmas day?" asked Mr. Dinneford, speaking from a
thought that flashed into his mind, and so without premeditation. He
fixed his eyes intently on Mrs. Bray's face, and saw by its quick
changes and blank surprise that he had put the right question.
Before she could recover herself and reply, he added,

"And you are, doubtless, this same Pinky Swett."

The half smile, half sneer, that curved the woman's lips, told Mr.
Dinneford that he was mistaken.

"No, sir," was returned, with regained coolness. "I am not 'this
same Pinky Swett.' You are out there."

"But you know her?"

"I don't know anything just now, sir," answered the woman, with a
chill in her tones. She closed her lips tightly, and shrunk back in
her chair.

"What, then, are your here for?" asked Mr. Dinneford, showing
considerable sternness of manner.

"I thought you understood," returned the woman. "I was explicit in
my statement."

"Oh, I begin to see. There is a price on your information," said Mr.

"Yes, sir. You might have known that from the first. I will be frank
with you."

"But why have you kept this secret for three years? Why did you not
come before?" asked Mr. Dinneford.

"Because I was paid to keep the secret. Do you understand?"

Too well did Mr. Dinneford understand, and it was with difficulty
he could suppress a groan as his head drooped forward and his eyes
fell to the floor.

"It does not pay to keep it any longer," added the woman.

Mr. Dinneford made no response.

"Gain lies on the other side. The secret is yours, if you will have

"At what price?" asked Mr. Dinneford, without lifting his eyes.

"One thousand dollars, cash in hand."

"On production of the child and proof of its identity?"

Mrs. Bray took time to answer. "I do not mean to have any slip in
this matter," she said. "It was a bad business at the start, as I
told Mrs. Dinneford, and has given me more trouble than I've been
paid for, ten times over. I shall not be sorry to wash my hands
clean of it; but whenever I do so, there must be compensation and
security. I haven't the child, and you may hunt me to cover with all
the police hounds in the city, and yet not find him."

"If I agree to pay your demand," replied Mr. Dinneford, "it can only
be on production and identification of the child."

"After which your humble servant will be quickly handed over to the
police," a low, derisive laugh gurgling in the woman's throat.

"The guilty are ever in dread, and the false always in fear of
betrayal," said Mr. Dinneford. "I can make no terms with you for any
antecedent reward. The child must be in my possession and his
parentage clearly proved before I give you a dollar. As to what may
follow to yourself, your safety will lie in your own silence. You
hold, and will still hold, a family secret that we shall not care to
have betrayed. If you should ever betray it, or seek, because of its
possession, to annoy or prey upon us, I shall consider all honorable
contract we may have at an end, and act accordingly."

"Will you put in writing, an obligation to pay me one thousand
dollars in case I bring the child and prove its identity?"

"No; but I will give you my word of honor that this sum shall be
placed in your hands whenever you produce the child."

Mrs. Bray remained silent for a considerable time, then, as if
satisfied, arose, saying,

"You will hear from me by to-morrow or the day after, at farthest.

As she was moving toward the door Mr. Dinneford said,

"Let me have your name and residence, madam."

The woman quickened her steps, partly turning her head as she did
so, and said, with a sinister curl of the lip,

"No, I thank you, sir."

In the next moment she was gone. _

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